2013 Seoul Crime Rates: Rape in Gwanak, Drugs in Gangnam

A year-end review of crime rates in Seoul found that you are most likely to be attacked by teenagers in Nowon, raped in Gwanak, and murdered in Kangseo. In each district, officials blamed the number of hagwon students, single women living alone, and foreigners for the unusually high incidents of the particular crime.

Netizens didn’t blame any one group in particular, but cautioned that it is dangerous for a woman to be alone in Seoul. Out of all the districts in Seoul, Gwanak reported the highest number of rape cases, 293, out of a population of 521,000, While Gangnam had the highest number of drug offenses, 129, out of a population of 528,000.

Article from Seoul Shinmun:

Changing Crime Trends in Seoul: South and West End – Violent Crime, Itaewon – Drugs

map of crime rates within Seoul

map of crime rates within Seoul

Crime rates in Seoul this year indicate that cases of rape and sexual assault happened most frequently in Gwanak District, where many single women live alone. Murder and rape cases happened most often in Gangseo District, drug-related crimes in Gangnam, and youth crime occurred most in Nowon District.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency published a report on the 22nd of November documenting the rates of seven major crimes (murder, burglary, rape, sexual assault, theft, assault/violence, arson, and drug related offenses) in the 25 districts in Seoul from the months of January to September. There were 293 reported cases of rape and sexual assault in Gwanak District. In comparison, there were 240 cases reported in Gangnam District, an area known for its transient population and entertainment venues. That is a 22.1% difference.

Seoul Police found that the high rate of sex-related crimes in Gwanak was due to the high numbers of single women living alone in the district. A full quarter of the district’s households are women living alone. In 2010, there were 217,359 households in Gwanak and a full 31.3% of these (67,926) were headed by women.

Drug-related offenses were reported most in the Gangnam and Yongsan Districts, home to many nightclubs. In Gangnam, 129 drug-related crimes were reported. Seoul Police divide the city into 31 reporting areas and Gangnam’s drug offenses accounted for 18.8% of the total 686 cases reported for the period. Yongsan’s 48 reported drug-related crimes made Yongsan number two in the category. The party district of Itaewon is found in Yongsan. A Gangnam District representative is quoted as saying “drugs are usually distributed through the club network, in Gangnam, foreign students and club operators tend to be involved in the drug trade, a relatively easy way to make money.”

Cases of arson were most commonly reported in the northeastern Jungrang District, amounting to 15 separate cases. Police in Jungrang say that the high number of separate single homes in the district may be a factor. According to the 2010 National Population and Housing Census, 27.5% of homes in the district were single-family, detached homes. Jongno District contains many high end homes, the second highest number among all city districts. Gyeonggi University Criminal Psychology professor Lee Su-jeong explains “arson without aim or purpose was usually found to have taken place in garbage disposal areas of houses, there are a lot of flammable materials there and this results in cases of serial arson.”

Among the seven major crimes reported, those involving youthful suspects occurred most often in the Nowon District with 591 cases, out of the 4028 total reported crimes in the area (10th highest number out of the 25 districts). The reason for the high number of youth offenders is said to be the high number of private learning institutions in the area. A representative from Nowon is quoted as saying “although 100,000 youth are in the district, the financial intersection in Junggye Dong contains a lot of hagwons which attract youths from outside of the area and this results in an increase of youth crime.”

Murders happened most often in the Gangseo District (21 cases) and Yeongdeungpo District (11 cases). Gangseo also lead the city with 24 violent robberies. Yeongdeungpo reported 2583 cases of violent assaults, also the highest number in Seoul. These districts are found in the southwest part of the city and house many low income citizens and foreign workers. Analysts are saying that this may be a reason for the high number of violent crimes there. Dongguk University Police Administration professor Kwak Dae-gyung explains “there are many foreign residents that have yet to adapt to Korean society and citizens lower in the economic strata in these areas, there’s trouble in terms of economic competition and a lengthy period of cultural assimilation that leads to people committing violent crimes out of frustration and the need for frequent police action.”

Looking at the combined statistics for the seven high priority crimes, Gwanak District reported the most total cases with 5554, Songpa (5356), Yongdeungpo (5221), and Gangnam had (4721).

Comments from Naver:


Drug offenders are messing up themselves with their own money…. But when it comes to murder and sex-related crimes, I hope they care more about public safety…. They should spend more money on that instead of wasting money on MOGEF.


That’s why people want to live in an affluent neighborhood.


Southwest areas such as Yeongdeungpo, Geumcheon, Guro and Gwanak are not livable. It’s dangerous there because they are habitats for a large number of foreign laborers and Korean-Chinese.


Bring back the Samchung Re-education Camp.


This place will soon turn into a battlefield.


I get surprised whenever I take the subway in Gwanak, Guro or Shindorim. Whereas Gangnam has a pleasant and clean image, those places look spooky, gloomy and dirty just like an industrial zone in the 80s.


As a person who lived in Gwanak before, I don’t know about men but I can say it is a very scary place for a woman to live alone.


Young ladies, the Gwanghwamun area has the best public safety. There are the Blue House, government buildings and embassies there. It is the most safe because there are a lot of policemen in the area. It is central Seoul so there are good public facilities. You can easily enjoy your leisure time in places like Samcheong-dong, Insa-dong, Jongro, Myeong-dong, etc. Also, it is pleasant there because the air is fresh near Mt. Bukak and Inwang which are the foot of Mt. Bukhan and there are many parks. It is also convenient to go anywhere from there because It is a transport center. Even if you have to pay 100,000 or 200,000 more won per month, it is better to live there like a human. You will feel comfortable and be able to focus on your work…


Please tighten up punishment.


I heard there are many criminals among foreign laborers but Kim Dae-jung lifted regulations on them too much. Please kick them out as soon as possible so we can live in peace, fack.

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  • It bothers me that the article cites the “cause” of the rapes in Gwanak as being “women living alone” because the police ought to be aware of the communities they serve and working to protect the public interest. The “cause” is not women living alone, but the people who are rapists. Sounds like the neighborhood could use more police engagement in public education projects, patrolling, etc.

    • Sillian

      In last April, Gwanak police department planned to be more proactive with new patrol systems but it will depend on how much resources they can get. It does seem true that the area attracts more sex offenders to begin with. This article explains why.


      • Hi again Sillian, I think we had some discussion on another post in the past.

        Wow, that report you linked to talks about women going home late and living alone, too. Thanks for sharing that link. I am curious to see if they implement new patrol systems.

        In a university area, how useful is it for the police to say something like “well, you live alone, that must be the cause of your rape.” I visit that area often and there are plenty of ridiculous signs posted about recycling that say “CCTV is watching how you sort your trash” so why not anti-break-in messaging, etc.? In that area in the middle of the afternoon, you can see police patrolling the same main street, but never on the side streets where the residential areas are located.

        I just want to live in a world where it is equally safe to be anybody. These statements by the police saying the ’cause’ out women and foreigners definitely do not make the police department feel like an ally to victims.

        I know people living in that area, and I know people who have been assaulted, and it isn’t the kind of message they need to hear from the police. They need to hear “We are taking action” instead of excuses for crime rates that indirectly blame the victims living conditions.

        • Sillian

          I understand where you come from and certainly there are many improvements to be made for crime prevention but I didn’t exactly get the impression that the police department is just saying “well, you live alone, that must be the cause of your rape.” They need to figure out why sex crime rates are particularly high in the area first to take proper measures. I don’t find it faulty to consider the household type as one of the contributing factors. It doesn’t sound like they are ‘blaming’ women for living alone. It’s just that there are a lot of women living alone in the area, which makes it easy for predators statistically.

          This article from April talks about the new patrol systems. I’m not sure how much changes it could make.


    • Ruaraidh

      Women living alone may be a factor in a higher number of rapes occurring in an area. After all a woman living with a friend or a partner is probably less vulnerable than someone who can easily be caught alone. I can’t see how this is controversial at all.

      • No argument that it can be a factor, but the police report says it is the ’cause’ and doesn’t describe any other factors as the ’cause.’ In my view, the police report should read “the Gwanak area attracts more criminals because ________ and the police department is responding by __________” rather than what was written. It is important that the police project an image of supporting victims rather than indirectly blaming their living circumstances. The police must be an ally otherwise it can’t feel comfortable to seek their help.

        Actually, I used to live in that area and I saw a woman being attacked by 4 men who were beating her very severely and kicking her on the ground, so I called the police. They hung up on me 3 times and then some kind of tourism hotline called me and let me know that I had called the “wrong” police number and asked for the details. A woman was being beaten to the point of hospitalization or death, and rather than responding, they decided it was important to inform me that my call didn’t qualify for using the 119 number. So, I guess I have some person opinions about the police enforcement in that area

        The area is located near a major university… of course there will be women and students living alone, but that means the police duty to serve the public means addressing safety for those individuals.

        The report singles out women and foreigners in a disparaging tone, which is a controversial thing to do, the police are identifying easy scapegoats.

        • Ruaraidh

          It cites women living alone as the cause of the higher than average incidence of rape in the area, not rape in general. At the first mention of sexual assault a lot of people seem to resort to ‘you’re blaming the victim’ where in actual fact most of the time nobody is.

      • David

        A factor is not the same as a cause. This was worded very badly (as were most of the other “causes”). Perhaps it was bad translation or simply bad communication on the part of the police department. Simply having more women who live alone in an area does not cause more rapes. However, an attitude by the police that it is the fault of the women living alone, does.

        • Sillian

          an attitude by the police that it is the fault of the women living alone

          It boils down to semantics but it doesn’t sound like the police department is blaming women for living alone like it is their fault. That seems far fetched.

          • David

            I hope your right and maybe it is just bad wording.

          • Ruaraidh

            It’s not bad wording, just bad reading and people leaping to conclusions. But well, this is the internet after all…

          • David

            Not bad reading at all. If you are familiar with Korean society you will know that “blaming the victim” is a common response to any indicators of social ills. When the number of foreigners robbed increases you will see comments like “well, if there were not so many foreigners in Korea the number of robberies would go down. The same thing goes for when immigrant workers are attacked or women are raped. Of course Korea is not the only place this happens, but it does happen there. Now, that does not man that this particular spokesperson meant that when they said those things, but it does bear asking about.

    • firebert5

      It’s sort of the “laws are made to keep honest people honest” scenario. There is going to be crime everywhere because people are people. But with easier opportunities in location A as opposed to location B, location A is going to have higher crime rates than B by virtue of having fewer reasons to not commit a crime. I’m not saying the criminal is not at fault or even less at fault, I’m just saying that where patrols and/or penalties are lessened, the potential for higher crime rates exists. Sad but true.

      • David

        So ‘more patrols’ = ‘less rapes’ not ‘more women’ = ‘more rapes’

    • commander

      The case that the higher sexual crime rate in Gwanak District than in others in Seoul is blamed on lax law enforcement by the police is highly questionable.

      First, the bigger police manpower is believed to have already been deployed in Gwanak District to curb a rising wave of rapes there, leading to the stepp-up patrolling around crime-prone areas with the district.
      Second, it is well established that sexual perpetrators tend to target sole-living women, who are relativlely powerless when they encountered sexual predators, giving criminals the thought that they can get away with impunity.

      Or course, the correlation between the bigger proportion of female loners to residents in an area and a pronounced sexual crime rate means doesn’t mean that women is responsible for sexual crimes. Rather, they are victims, nothing more and noting less.

      Third, the analysis of crime rates by areas in Seoul serves as a sober reminder to women that they could be potential targets of sexual crimes and that they need to be more cautious when they are alone at home or walking home on a street at nighttime.

      I don’t think that sexual crimes can be stemmed by “education” for adults.
      Although sex education can be helpful in establishing a “healty, balanced perpsective of sex and gender for teens, it is not plausible that sex education for adults will tame potential sexual criminals meaningfully.

      • Thanks for your response comment. To clarify, by public education from the police department, in this specific case I don’t mean sexual reproduction education in school.

        What I mean is that for example,
        – there could be posters at the bus stop or on the buses with anti-violence messages and reminders of the penalties for rape,
        – there could be police foot patrols off the main streets into the residential area,
        -The police and building inspection department could be checking whether or not the placement of public utility poles (like for electricity or phone lines) are making it easier to climb up into a building, etc. which also happens a lot. My friend was really upset when a utility pole was installed right next to her window because her window didn’t have any additional security reinforcement.
        – ALL OVER in Gwanak there are these silly posters that point out that there are CCTV cameras inspecting your garbage and recycling habits, lol, why not have them instead depict the CCTV watching someone try to break into a house (or have more CCTV camera posters in the neighborhood in general to discourage break-ins)?
        – there could be a community program to share information about making the home safer,
        – or there could be home invasion self-defense programs, etc,

        By saying women living alone is the cause, they kind of ignore other solutions. Worse, it sounds really awful to the survivors of those attacks, so I think the police should be sensitive and careful with their words.

        Gwanak area is located near a major university… of course there will be women and students living alone, but that means the police duty to serve the public means addressing safety for those individuals.

        • commander

          Still, I dont buy the idea that the public eudcation programs you detailed, including cautionary posters for sexual crimes, and self defense lectures for women could get sexual crimes reduced significantly. CCTV-featuring posters only serve to alert potential sexual assailants to stay more surreptitious and catious in preying on female targets.

          And I think you are confused with the analysis of a crime trend in Gwanak and the cause of sexual crimes.

          It is a reasonable analysis to say that the more women living alone there are, the more incidence the area has of sexual crimes on the premise of other things being equal.

          You can just think this way.

          Restaruants are more likely to go well when they are located in the paths of large crowdes gathering as long as other factors like culinary taste, interior designing etc. It’s kind of the law or supplt and demand, though it’s somewhat hesistant to say that sexual crime victimes are supply.

          But they are in the eyes of sexual criminals with uncontrollable sexual drive.

          This conclusion does not mean at the slightest that we dont have any option but to sit back and watch criminals go rampant.

          Rathet the relative higher porportion of living-alone women to the population in an area help us formulate mote effective anti sexual crime measures that, if you insist, could include some public campaigns you highlight.

    • Guest

      if a female is wearing shorts, shes asking for it… -.-

  • bigmamat

    Sounds like Seoul is pretty much like any large city, lower income area, higher crime. These things are self perpetuating. Larger concentrations of people struggling to survive and less police protection in depressed areas equal higher crime rates. I do find it curious that the Seoul police department finds it necessary to make sure their report points out women and foreigners in particular. I’m not sure the report is pointing a finger at these people but I’m sure there will be some who take it that way. There will always be people willing and ready to lay blame.

    • I think that when they said that women and foreigners are the ’cause 원인’ it does come across as pointing the finger.

      • bigmamat

        I’m sure anyone that wants to interpret that way will jump all over it. Knowing that many Koreans are suspicious of foreigners and that women are expected to marry, stay married and live either under the protection of their family or husband I’d say yeah.

  • Eric0912

    Seoul still sounds like one of the safest places on the planet. But maybe some international statistics would prove that theory wrong?

  • Jang

    Because Eng. hagwons are bad, foreigners are bad, and S. Korean women are stupid for living alone when they should marry/live with a Korean man who works all day, drinks all night, has sex elsewhere, then comes home for a regular wife beating, all the comforts of Home(NOT)Alone.

  • holdingrabbits

    The professor feels the need to mention that a lot of foreign workers live in these areas as well as people with low income…I’d like to see the figures that show how many crimes were committed by foreigners vs. natives.

  • bultak23

    The word foreigners causes trouble. Its a category rather than a nationality, like Uzbeks, or Pakistanis, but not Mongolians. You call yourselves Koreans, you should at least refer to them by their nationality, criminal or not. Remember, Confucius said you should treat even criminals in a civilized way.

    외국인 라는 단어를 사용하면 무제된다. 이 단어로 사람을 종류 에 따라 나누어 구별 하다. 기계적 존재로 만들다. 유교사상의 핵심 사상은 인간성이다.

    • Jang

      And Confucius still sadly lives, especially in that crime report.

  • Jang

    My student(male) supported the police. It’s a zero sum game for him, the police, and the vast majority of Korean males. He said that if there weren’t any women then there wouldn’t be any rape(in Gwanak or anyplace else). He compared it(I told him to think straight before he continued to speak but it didn’t work) to a white man going into a black neighborhood, he blamed the white man. I shit you not. There ain’t getting through thy S. Korean male’s thick skull. Let them continue to make fools of themselves. For sure, next year’s gender report for S. Korea will be the same(behind the mid-east UAE) or worse for S. Korea. It certainly ain’t moving up or improving and S. Korea certainly ain’t “changing” no matter what anybody says.

    • Sillian

      Every single comment of yours is so typically like this often with some convenient anecdotes. You are one of the most consistently disgruntled individuals I’ve come across online.

      • Jang

        You can’t blame me when it’s Korean police/men who blame S. Korean women for rape. And if you think blaming S. Korean women for rape is going to improve the S. Korean gender report you’re nutty. Talk about disgruntled, you just don’t like hearing the facts. I’m simply dismayed at how S. Korean men treat S. Korean women. It’s S. Korean women who should be disgruntled, but you’re correct foreigners are treated worse than S. Korean women.

        • Sillian

          I don’t know if you are really serious or you just feel like
          ranting. You just sound like a disgruntled expat trapped in his own little circle. Criticism is one thing but delusional ‘woe-is-me’ persecution complex is another. The Evil Korean Man is out to get the Western Man down! Fortunately I know enough realistic and intelligent western expats who know what they are talking about so don’t even think you are speaking for them.

          And if you think blaming S. Korean women for rape is going to improve the S. Korean gender report you’re nutty.

          Nobody is blaming women for rape here. God forbid, someone said sexual predators are more active in an area where single-woman households are concentrated…because that is blaming the victims?

          What gender report? Are you referring to the WEF report? If so, it has absolutely nothing to do with rape or anything like that. 100 pages of detailed analysis won’t help you if you are just gonna believe what you want to believe.

    • Jen

      Absolutely ridiculous. What a hateful and ignorant comment to make.

  • Truck Furniture Maker

    Oh it must be the “foreigners” even though Americans living in Korea have a lower crime rate than Koreans and even Canadians according to your own government statistics.

    • Guy

      The largest category of foreigners in Korea is Chinese and Korean-Chinese and that is the only particular group of foreigners pointed out in the report.

      I am sceptical of the unsubstantiated claim that foreign students are the ones running the drug trade though. I seriously doubt that foreign students, people with usually little experience in Korea, would have a clue how to do that or the resources to traffic more than very small amounts.

  • That’s marvelous

    The most common place where south korean women get raped is…. within their own relationship, ie by their boyfriend. It is never reported to police, hell, they don’t even break up over it. In fact, it’s considered completely acceptable, also by most women.

    Where do you start to cure a society like that?

  • agentS

    It’s funny watching these netizens complain about the Seoul crime rate. They wouldn’t last 4 minutes in Oakland (12 in Miami).

    Speaking of Miami, I wonder if Gangnam has a higher percentage of cigar shaped speed-boats than the rest of the country?

  • N

    The unabashed bias in this article is laughable. You know, you’re allowed to omit biased information that doesn’t serve the article or the greater good of the readers. If reporting information that officials said, you should cite names, especially when the claims are of this nature. There is far too much generalization in this article, and a good deal of it is offensive. It’s not about being sensitive; it’s about tact. I realize the intentions were good, but you can’t randomly toss information about single women and foreigners into an article like this to perpetuate an already difficult situation.A number of these statements do nothing but propagate stereotypes and further rape culture.

  • kpopfanatic93

    I understand but you can’t blame foreigners for everything. That’s total BS, Just say that your own ppl are committing the crimes and stop covering it up.

    • tina

      also many koreans know that black negros are prone to violence and rape. many black males rape white and asian women worldwide. don’t pretend that nigs in korea are innocent at all. i’ve been told by some korean females that they were raped black negro males.

      • kpopfanatic93

        I can’t take you seriously if you are going to use the terms “nigs” or “negros” in the year 2014….

        If you were using that to get me upset you are very wrong in your intentions, as it didn’t work….

  • doodoo

    Why not focus on changing the conditions that create the offenders, instead of blaming law-abiding citizens for their legal lifestyle?

  • Peninsula

    Songpa is a crazy place. Crazy people, Crazy policeman.

  • Jacob Kilgore

    To all of you racists who are also bad at math, “1.4 percent of crimes in the nation are committed by foreigners, which is quite low considering the 3.5% of the population is non-Korean

  • Jacob Kilgore

    This blindness that Koreans have is why I must leave the country when my work contract ends. Foreigners commit only 1.4 percent of the crimes, but Koreans close their eyes to any crime a Korean commits, refusing to believe a member of their master race could ever do such a thing.

    Do the math. Subtract 1.4 from 100. That’s the percent of crimes that Koreans commit. Is it surprising? Most of the people here are Korean. What else could the reality be?

    Not only that, but so many crimes are off the charts here. Domestic abuse is off the charts, rapes are common, prostitution is insane… You want to close your eyes to that and give me nasty looks when you see me walking or sitting with an Asian girl? (She doesn’t even have to be Korean) go ahead and be a savior and call the girl I’m eating 감자탕 with a taxi, because you are a racist pig–but who are the greatest abusers of women here by percentage by far? Go ahead and say it…
    And you better look at the rates of suicide, alcohol consumption (#2, behind Eastern European countries), poverty of the elderly.

    I’m sick of it.

    “One time there was this Chinese guy in Incheon…” Shut up and take all crimes into perspective and don’t only bring up ones committed by foreigners.

    Us workers have to pass a criminal background check, have a BA or higher, etc. to be here.

    Get real.

  • Korean

    송파: 양아치, 빠순이 촌.

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